Portrait of Kitty
|Material||Oil on board|
|Dimensions||32 cm × 24 cm (13 in × 9.4 in)|
|Location||The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, England|
|URL||Portrait of Kitty at The New Art Gallery Walsall|
Portrait of Kitty is a painting by Lucian Freud of Kitty Garman, his wife and the eldest daughter of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman. Completed between 1948 and 1949, this oil on board measures 35 by 24 centimetres (13.8 in × 9.4 in).
Freud (1922–2011) was married to Garman (1926–2011) between 1948 and 1952, and the couple had two daughters together, Annie (born 1948) and Annabel (born 1952).
Kitty was the eldest daughter of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and his lover Kathleen Garman. Epstein and Garman were together for over thirty years before they married in 1955, after the death of Epstein's first wife Margaret. Kitty was their only child to survive into old age. Her elder brother Theo (1924–1954) was a talented painter, who suffered from schizophrenia and died suddenly aged only 29, and her younger sister Esther (1929–1954) took her own life in the same year her brother died.
Kitty was brought up by her grandmother in Herefordshire, with regular visits to her mother's house in Chelsea. Epstein's second family's arrangements were rather unconventional and bohemian. He would visit Kitty's mother every evening between 6 and 7 pm, at which time no one else was allowed in the house.
Kitty studied at The Central School of Arts and Crafts under the tuition of Bernard Meninsky and was taught book illustration by John Farleigh. Once she was introduced to Lucian Freud at the Café Royal her own artistic studies took a back seat. Previously Freud had been the lover of Kitty's aunt, Lorna Wishart, Kathleen's sister, who introduced him to her niece.
Their five-year relationship was turbulent, and became increasingly unstable due to Freud's alleged infidelities and womanising, which took its toll on Kitty's health. In 1952 Kitty left Freud and went to live with her parents, Freud having started at an affair with Lady Caroline Blackwood. In 1955 Kitty married the musician and economist Wynne Godley, having another daughter, Eve, with him in 1967.
Kitty has been the subject of many portraits, including Freud's famous Girl with a White Dog as well as drawings and sculptures by her father. More recently she was depicted in a BP Portrait Award winning triptych by the artist Andrew Tift.
Freud was known for his intense scrutiny of his subjects, revealing the intimate relationship between artist and sitter. Portrait of Kitty was one of several of his early works in which she acted as a model, and these are now generally regarded as some of his masterpieces. Kitty was known for her "wide-eyed feline features which captivated the artist", becoming his frequent model during the early years of their relationship. Most of Freud's sitters were not named, and in Freud's portraits of Garman she was often referred to as "Girl", with the exception being this portrait.
Utilising a prominent profile arrangement for the portrait, Freud depicts Garman in cool tones against a bare background of green shutters with areas of peeling paint. Typical of his early portraiture style, Freud paints Garman's hair and the subtle changes in the background with great attention to detail. According to art historian Sheila McGregor, the inclusion of aesthetically imperfect background elements "reveals his intention to depict the world with all its imperfections, bereft of symbolism or flattery."
Freud's painting style began to change in the 1950s, when he moved towards the much freer painting technique he is best known for.
The New Art Gallery Walsall
Portrait of Kitty is in the Garman Ryan Collection at the New Art Gallery Walsall. This collection was gifted to Walsall in 1973 by Kitty's mother Kathleen Garman, and her friend Sally Ryan. Kathleen Garman had been brought up just outside the town and wanted to leave the works to Walsall to improve the cultural life of her native Black Country. Kathleen Garman purchased several works by her son-in-law which feature in the collection. Originally the collection was on display in a small gallery above the town's library. In the 1990s the idea of a new home for the collection was conceived, and in 2000 The New Art Gallery Walsall, a purpose built gallery designed by the architects Caruso St John, opened to the public.
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